Clinical Munster continues to set the pace
PRO14 SUNDAY WRAP: Munster continues to set the pace at the top of Conference B after delivering a clinical performance to best Dragons 28-16 at Rodney Parade.
Johann van Graan’s men came into the game off of the back of three strong wins and they maintained their form.
* In the other Sunday match Edinburgh secured their first win of the season by beating Scarlets 6-3 in a bruising battle at Parc y Scarlets.
Dragons 16-28 Munster
Munster continues to set the pace at the top of Conference B after delivering a clinical performance to best Dragons 28-16 at Rodney Parade.
Johann van Graan’s men came into the game off of the back of three strong wins and they maintained their form with Matt Gallagher scoring his first two tries for the province and Calvin Nash following up with a third.
The hosts had their moments, beginning both halves strongly, and scoring two tries themselves through Sam Davies and Matthew Screech but could not live with Munster’s attacking edge.
If there was any disappointment for Munster then it will come from their inability to find a winning bonus-point but they now sit eight points clear in their Conference while Dragons remain fifth in Conference A with just one win to their name so far.
Dragons made five changes to the side that fell to defeat at Ulster while Munster brought in seven fresh faces from their win over Cardiff Blues and several of these made their presences felt during the contest with JJ Hanrahan in at No.10 and Gallagher at full-back both shining.
The hosts began strongly but van Graan’s side, who have been impressive so far this season, quickly found their feet and began to assert their dominance.
Some strong work through the phases and from the Munster pack kept the pressure on the hosts and this told in the 13th minute when a brilliant break and offload from flanker John Hodnett released Gallagher to score his first try for the province.
And the visitors were now firmly in the ascendancy and another smart attack inside the Dragons 22 resulted in another penalty for Munster, which Hanrahan gladly slotted over.
They then scored seven more points when Nash dotted down a converted try, Gallagher initiating a rapid counter-attack before Darren Sweetnam calmly collected a grubber kick to set his fellow wing over.
In the final ten minutes of the first half Dragons fought back well and Davies dotted down on a loose ball to score the hosts first try.
As in the first half, the home side got out of the blocks quickly after the break and Davies reduced the arrears with another penalty but defence sharply turned into attack for Munster and Hanrahan gave his side a ten-point lead once more with three points.
Having weathered the Dragons storm earlier, the visitors thought they had scored their third try through Sweetnam twice only for both efforts to be overruled for offside and obstruction respectively.
But they did eventually get the third try that their play and continued pressure deserved, as Gallagher doubled up when he was set clear by a beautiful release from Damian de Allende.
There was just time for Screech to add another Dragons try, the lock scoring on his 150th appearance for the Welsh club.
Play of the Day
Munster’s final try showed just what they are capable of with ball in-hand as they worked through the phases beautifully.
Hanrahan released to de Allende who shifted inside his man sweetly to give himself the time to offload to Gallagher, who was in acres of space.
The full-back did all the rest, crossing to cap a perfect day both on a personal and collective level.
Player of the Match
In the absence of Conor Murray to injury and international selection recently, Craig Casey has had the chance to shine and the scrum-half continued to impress today with a strong showing.
The 21-year-old was a constant menace around the park, spraying passes at the base of the scrum and dictating play.
A worthy mention goes to Matt Gallagher who was technically brilliant at full-back and scored his first two tries for Munster with expert precision.
For the Dragons
Tries: Davies, Screech
Pens: Davies 2
Tries: Gallagher, Nash, Gallagher
Cons: Hanrahan 2
Pens: Hanrahan 3
Dragons: 15 Josh Lewis, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Adam Warren, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Harrison Keddie, 6 Ben Fry, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Conor Maguire, 18 Aaron Jarvis, 19 Ben Carter, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jack Dixon, 23 Dafydd Howells.
Munster: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Rory Scannell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Darren Sweetnam, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 Josh Wycherley.
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Thomas Ahern, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Jake Flannery, 23 Jack O’Sullivan.
Referee: Ben Blain (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones, Aled Evans (both Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
Scarlets 3-6 Edinburgh
Edinburgh secured their first win of the season by beating Scarlets 6-3 in a bruising battle at Parc y Scarlets.
Played in torrential rain conditions were not conducive to quick, silky rugby and the match was largely contested at the scrum.
In a game with no tries it was Edinburgh who managed to hold their nerve best, surviving a late onslaught from the 14-man hosts to win courtesy of six points from Jaco van der Walt’s boot.
Last season’s Conference B table-toppers stay in fifth but are now on six points with tonight’s opponents Scarlets fourth on the same number.
The home side made five changes from last week’s win at Benetton, with the biggest news coming in the form of the return from injury of Johnny McNicholl to line up at full-back in the absence of Wales star Liam Williams while Richard Cockerill brought in Scotland internationals Henry Pyrgos, Magnus Bradbury, Nick Haining and Mark Bennett.
And it was Edinburgh who felt the early boost of their selection shake-up as they looked much brighter and immediately put Scarlets under pressure in their own 22.
Despite losing two players to injury inside the first ten minutes the visitors were bright but as the half developed it became more of a nip-and-tuck affair with Scarlets grabbing the lion share of possession amid torrid wet conditions.
As the half came to an end Edinburgh piled the pressure on with their pack and thought they had scored the opening try of the game only for it to be ruled short but they did end the first 40 minutes with three points when van der Walt slotted his penalty over to send the visitors into the break in the lead.
Into the second half and Scarlets began well, putting plenty of scrum pressure onto their opponents to force them into conceding a penalty which brought the sides level courtesy of Angus O’Brien.
Continued scrum time penalties from the hosts saw replacement Werner Kruger sent to the sin-bin with just over a quarter of the game to go and Edinburgh took advantage by adding another three points through a van der Walt penalty kick.
Things then got worse for the hosts when Josh Helps was shown a red card for a high tackle but Glenn Delaney’s side showed grit and fight as they mounted a late attack on Edinburgh’s line with 14 men.
However, with the pressure mounting and Scarlets near the tryline, Edinburgh stayed strong and David Cherry turned the ball over to deny the hosts.
Play of the Day
This match was certainly not a classic, but scrum purists would have had plenty to enjoy.
Nevertheless, Scarlets turned on the style with a man down as they hunted a result in the dying embers of the game, pushing the visitors onto their own line.
But Cherry was there to perform some magic at the breakdown, turning the ball over to secure the win in dramatic fashion.
Player of the Match
Forced onto the field after only ten minutes due to injury starting prop Murray McCallum, the veteran South African WP Nel called upon all his experience in tough conditions to boss the pack battle.
Serving as part of a determined Edinburgh defensive effort which made 99 tackles at an 87% success rate, while also winning six turnovers, Nel was supremely disciplined and guided his side through to a much-needed win.
Pens: Van der Walt
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tyler Morgan, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Morgan Jones, 4 Josh Helps, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Dom Booth, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Jac Price, 20 Ed Kennedy, 21 Will Homer, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Tom Prydie.
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Blain, 14 George Taylor, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Jamie Farndale, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain), 8 Nick Haining, 7 Ally Miller, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 WP Nel, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Connor Boyle, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 James Johnstone.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens, Rhys Jones (both Wales)
TMO: Wayne Davies (Wales)